Power: Foundation set for 2011 title run

Fourth in a series looking at championship runner-up Will Power and the team

Power Foundation set for 2011 Title RunAlthough Will Power fell short of achieving his goal of claiming the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series championship by just five points, it was still quite a season for the Verizon Team Penske driver. He won more races than any driver in the series (five), all coming on street and road courses. He also established a series record by winning eight pole positions. The consistent level of production earned him the inaugural Mario Andretti Trophy as the best street and road racer in the series.

Power’s performance level improved dramatically and he was in contention to win several oval races. He vows that he will win on the ovals next season from the progress he made this year.

“No question, it has been a fantastic season,” Power said. “The result wasn’t what we wanted it to be at the end, but if we look back, this has been the best season of my career. I’ve learned a lot. I’m going to come back again next year and ovals definitely won’t be my weakness.”

While the competition level was extremely tight on street and road courses, Power was a cut above. By building upon that foundation, he expects even bigger things to come.

“As soon as I finished that last race I was already thinking about next year and what I can do to improve,” Power said. “All the experience I gained this year has been unbelievable. This will be the first time in my career that I’ve had the same team, engineer and car for two years in a row. I’ve never had that before so that is going to be a big plus.”

When Power brushed the backstretch wall and damaged his car beyond repair in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his 25th-place finish was a premature end to his championship fight. And while Power acknowledges he was disheartened finishing second in the championship to Dario Franchitti, he realizes that valuable lessons are learned during times of disappointment.

“It takes time and you will look back and think `Man, if I didn’t make this mistake’ what might have happened,” Power said. “It’s a mistake you remember forever and will never do it again, but it is in the back of your mind. You can’t help that. It’s human nature.

“I was taking it for what it was. We had a couple races where we lost a lot of points. What can you do about it? All you can do is learn from it and put it down to experience.”

There were many highlights to Power’s season, such as winning the first two contests of the year at Sao Paulo, Brazil, and St. Petersburg, Fla., in March. But of his five victories, one conquest stands above the rest.

“Winning Sonoma was the highlight,” Power said. “That was one race I wanted to go back and win after what happened. That was unbelievably satisfying. That was something I said from the beginning of the year – I was going to go back and win that race. It was a perfect race weekend – I won the pole, led the most laps and got the win. You couldn’t get better than that. A lot of Verizon people were there and it was an all-around great weekend.”

Power’s victory at Infineon Raceway came a year after he suffered broken vertebrae during a practice crash. Power was able to use the worst injury of his career as motivation to return.

There will be plenty of motivation for Power in 2011 as he is already focused on winning the championship and “the big race” – the Indianapolis 500.

“Man, I was thinking even as I was going through this past season how I can’t wait to get back to Indy,” Power said. “There is something about it. You fall in love with that place. It is such a cool, unbelievable place to race and if you get a chance to win, that would be fantastic. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve had a couple good results there and have had three full races there. If you drive for Penske a lot of effort goes into that race. It is definitely high on the radar.”

Power realizes that success is 2011 won’t be easy. In fact, he predicts the most competitive seasons in IZOD IndyCar Series history.

“I think every year with this car gets more competitive and more teams catch up,” he said. “The smaller teams make up ground and the bigger teams run out of things to develop,” Power said. “I think next year, which is the last year of that car, will be the toughest year in IndyCar competition.

“In 2012, I can’t wait for the new car. It will be something new, something we have to work hard to apply different driving styles for. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

But Power can go into the off-season with the comfort of knowing everything is in place at Verizon Team Penske.

“That is something I’m not used to,” Power said. “It’s great. It is very comforting. Now, all we have to do is focus on the season ahead.”

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